Sorry Day – Witnessing History
I can’t let this day pass without comment. As I’m writing this the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is making an apology to Australia’s indigenous peoples for past wrongs. He is saying sorry – at long last. You can read the words here.
My father grew up in Yarrawonga. He was second oldest of five boys. They are all dead now except for the youngest – my uncle Jack. I see Jack each year when he comes to Melbourne to march with the diggers, his mates, on April 25, ANZAC Day. His resemblance to my father is remarkable. Jack can talk under water. He’d talk to a fence post. My father said little, thought a lot. Drank a lot.
A recent newspaper article (I can’t remember who wrote it) spoke of our abysmal lack of awareness of Aboriginal languages (by White Australians). Most if us know no words in any of the many hundreds of Aboriginal languages. Yet we use them every day. Many of our towns, our rivers, our natural landmarks are derived from Aboriganal languages. Yarrawonga is one of those words. It means ‘where the wonga, or cormorant, builds in river gums’.
My dad told me stories, sometimes, of how the ‘whities’ treated the ‘abos’. He was appalled by these actions, as I have been appalled by the fact that as recently as the early 1970s Government Policy enabled Aboriginal children to be taken from their families, often without the knowledge of those families. In all, 50,000 children were taken.
If you want to see a remarkable story of this aspect of Australian history, watch the 2002 movie Rabbit Proof Fence, directed by Philip Noyce.
My father would have been proud today. I am proud today.